WHITMAN – The Select Board on Tuesday, Nov. 29 heard presentations from four cannabis retailers, each seeking one of the three licenses available to establish a recreational retail business in town.
Four applicants – Flower & Soul, Berkeley Botanicals, Stories and Mitchell Cannabis Co. – presented their business proposals to the board, which anticipates voting on the licenses at its Dec. 13 meeting. The applicants’ full presentations can be viewed on the Whitman-Hanson Community Access TV YouTube channel.
There were some familiar faces involved in ownership or leadership positions of two companies. Former Whitman Police Chief Scott Benton is the security advisor for Stories LLC, and former Hanson Selectman Kenny Mitchell is CFO of Mitchell Cannabis Co.
The applicants all proposed adult-use retail establishments involving tier-one cultivation and manufacturing components as well as transportation licenses for business-to-business transport.
Selectman Justin Evans asked if any of the four would try for one of the medical or grow facility licenses if they did not receive a retail permit, but all of them indicated that their business models were planned around the retail aspect, with more than one indicating the buildings they have invested in are either not ideally located or designed for a grow facility.
“We’re picking the locations based on the current uses,” Wall said.
“We’re pretty committed to cultivation and product manufacturing,” Berkeley attorney Shawn Reilly said. Owner Matt Raderbach noted the town’s bylaw does not permit cultivation in different areas off Route 18, including their location where the site plan has already been approved and built out.
“Under the state’s new community agreement law, the days of 3-percent community impact fee being the default are over,” said Flower & Soul attorney Blake Mensing, who is a local regulator has worked on 100 cannabis licenses in the state. “Everything single product grown and manufactured that gets retailed through the store here would be subject to the 3-percent local option tax.”
Whitman has just over 15,000 residents, of which about 10,000 are over age 21 — and could legally buy from the businesses, possibly bringing in $7.5 to $10 million in revenue between the three licenses, according to Wall. That amount is relatively low because of Brockton’s 13 licenses, Abington’s four and two each for Marshfield and Natick.
“It’s like an Apple store,” said Valerio Romano, a co-author of the ballot initiative that legalized cannabis in Massachusetts, and who represents Stories LLC, planned for 769 Bedford St. Dr. Davis Patel, an internist at Brown University, and Stories CFO and Benton also attended the meeting.
Patel’s research into medical uses of cannabis indicated shifting pain management to cannabis, rather than opioids, would help limit addiction problems.
“I was very impressed,” Benton said of his conversation with the Stories ownership. “As you know, we do have things going on — especially even here in our town — with regard to opioids and things like that, and just to get their perspective … I found interesting.”
He vetted the company and its officers.
“They are as good as they sound,” Benton said. “Believe me I looked.”
Flower & Soul founder/CEO Brian Wall, a Whitman native, said the business would operate at 356 South Ave., in Whitman as SoulFlower, separate from his Halifax business model, in half of a building that was a former show manufacture building.
Reilly, who represented the first cannabis business in Abington, and Raderbach, owner of Berkeley Botanicals, has operated a cannabis retailer in Bridgewater since 2014. Berkeley, which owns other business locations in southern New England, Philadelphia and Arizona in several business capacities, and has worked with DPH before it became the CCC.
In Whitman, the business would operate as Renew Cannabis Co. at 305 Bedford St. (Route 18), owned by Sweezey properties. His father runs medical marijuana businesses in several towns, including Bridgewater.
“This isn’t a day job for me,” Raderbach said. “This is my life.”
Security, from controlled entry to a separate exit, physical security inside and outside the building and appointment-only operations at least to start, have been a priority.
“What’s important tonight is to get to know the folks and the team members and who’s going to be part of it,” said Peter D’Agostino, representing Mitchell Cannabis Co. “A lot of this stuff is very heavily regulated.”
Kenneth Mitchell Sr., CFO of the family company has also been general manager of Newcomb’s Tree Service.
A minority-owned business, Mitchell is also applying to the state as a social equity applicant for their proposed business at 519 Auburn St., the location of the former Toll House motel, with plans to keep the relatively historic building while restoring the exterior.
SoulFlower, Renew Cannabis and Stories use a wellness approach to cannabis treating customers based on their individual needs, and all four companies already do, or have pledged to, work with local police and drug abuse prevention organizations and support local community groups.
The board asked questions of each company following their presentations.
“We don’t look to be a business, we look to be a partner,” Wall said, noting his contributions to the Halifax community and pledged to prioritize local contractors. “We’re here to work with the chief, not to be an obstacle to him.”
The stores would all be looking at a nine- to 11-month timeline from town license approval to opening.